Social Business for Vulnerable Women
Thank you to all our donors, we have met our fundraising goal!
WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?
At Palmera we believe a livelihood for a vulnerable woman can start with something as simple as a single stitch. This is why we are establishing a social business, “It Starts with a Stitch” (ISWAS), to empower vulnerable women in Northern Sri Lanka to run their own garment centres to earn a sustainable income from ethically producing school uniforms for children in Australia. All profits earned will be directed into expanding the business into rural villages and supporting local communities. Funding is required for a feasibility study and to select the first pilot garment business.
Initially, Palmera will undertake a feasibility study to identify potential beneficiaries, and develop an optimal business model for the export of uniforms. Based on this study a pilot garment business will then be established in Northern Sri Lanka. This pilot will be the basis for establishing a sustainable social business. Once the pilot garment centre is shown to be successful, this project will be replicated in other communities and relationships with Australian schools will be developed.
- Enables a safe and flexible working environment for vulnerable women by locating the garment businesses in the village so women do not travel far distances to work (which would otherwise leave them exposed to sexual abuse, violence or trafficking).
- Alleviates poverty and aid-dependency in post-war communities with all profits earned from the business being directed into expanding ISWAS into other villages and to supporting the local community (e.g. through water, sanitation and educational initiatives).
- Empowers and instils confidence in vulnerable women with marketable skills and training to produce garments of export quality.
- Provides vulnerable women with a regular sustainable income stream that does not fluctuate with economic conditions or seasonal factors.
- Creates a range of employment opportunities in underdeveloped rural markets ranging from providing a sewing livelihood to entrepreneurial opportunities to manage contracts with local and international buyers.
- Increases education and awareness of social businesses in Australia about ethical supply chains and inspires the next generation on socially conscious capitalism.
There are over 90,000 war widows in Sri Lanka who are disempowered and lack the opportunity to move past the trauma of war. This is especially so for vulnerable women in the more isolated rural areas of Northern Sri Lanka. International bodies (such as the UN and International Crisis Group) report sexual abuse, violence, extreme poverty, and limited livelihood support for these women.
Palmera is excited to investigate options to establish a social business, “It Starts With a Stitch” (ISWAS), in apparel-production that provides a safe and flexible livelihood for these vulnerable women. School uniforms have been selected as the primary garment because the demand for school uniforms does not fluctuate in response to short or medium term economic conditions. It therefore allows for the creation of stable and predictable income for business owners and in turn, the women they employ. Sri Lanka is a leading apparel producing country and the skills learnt by the beneficiaries will be transferable and in-demand by large Sri Lankan manufacturers.
If the project is successfully piloted, Palmera will move to establish “It Starts with a Stitch” as a full-scale social business exporting ethically produced garments to Australia. “It Starts with a Stich” will showcase what can be achieved through a social business model and inspire entrepreneurs to engage in conscious capitalism. As a social business “It Starts with a Stitch” will put in place measures to ensure ethical operations and treatment of employees, including a strong focus on fair employment conditions and OH&S, especially given the global pressures for safety and remuneration reform in the industry.
In addition, exporting the garments to Australia provides an opportunity to shift Australia’s development focus in war-torn regions of Sri Lanka from aid-based assistance to an empowering commercial relationship. To date, there is no other social enterprise supplying the school uniform market in Australia so ISWAS is a truly innovative business entering the market. It allows Australian children to understand in an interactive and meaningful way about how their ethical decisions can create significant social change in a global economy
Palmera will work with a local NGO in this initial phase of the project to conduct the feasibility study and work with local communities to select a pilot centre.
Beyond this, “It Starts with a Stitch” will replicate the local pilot garment centre in other Northern Sri Lankan communities, establish a regional buying centre and work with Australian schools to market and implement the sale of the garments. 100% of the profits from the business will be reinvested back into the development of the social business and the communities in which they operate.
LEADS is an experienced local organisation that has worked in Sri Lanka over the past three decades, specialising in disaster response, resettlement and integrated community development. LEADS has been instrumental in the delivery of shelter, water and sanitation, and medical programs in post disaster areas hit by the 2004 tsunami and the torrential rains of 2010 and 2011.
With this rich experience, LEADS is an ideal partner for Palmera to work with on developing the feasibility of this garment social business.